AUSTIN, Minn. — Before Ken and Gloria Trom finally decided to convert the last of their Udolpho Township cropland into native prairie, they got a bit of help from Mower County — a drill bit, that is.

The couple had already noticed dozens of native species taking hold on the land.

When they decided last year to make the conversion of cropland to prairie land, through the federal Conservation Reserve Program, they used a no-till drill planter purchased this year by Mower Soil and Water Conservation District. They used the drill to convert nearly 100 acres to native plants. They planted butterfly milkweed, prairie blazing star, stiff goldenrod, sneezeweed, black-eyed Susan and partridge pea, all without tilling the land.

No-tillage planters leave soil undisturbed while depositing new seeds. Soil and surrounding plants can stay intact during planting.

Land owners who want to plant buffer zones, prairie plants, cover crops, wildflowers and pasture can rent the drill from the conservation district.

"It makes it more feasible and convenient for Mower County landowners," Tim Ruzek, water plan and outreach coordinator, told Agri News .

More than a dozen landowners rented the drill for projects in all corners of Mower County this year. Having it available actually spurred some landowners to undertake conservation projects when they otherwise wouldn't.

The demand and a late start on planting season this spring means some landowners will have to wait until next year to use it.

"We had more interest than we could accommodate," Ruzek said.

The planter was purchased with donations and funding from Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, Pheasants Forever of Mower County, the Austin chapter of the Audubon Society and the Austin chapter of the Izaak Walton League.

"Without the local groups' support, we could not have acquired this much-needed equipment," said Justin Hanson, Mower Soil and Water Conservation District manager.

No-till planters have residue managers, finger coulters and double-disk openers that move some residue soil from the row to improve seed-to-soil contact.

The new equipment has improved what have already been strong conservation efforts in Mower County, conservation officials said.

In September, Mower Soil and Water Conservation District's Board of Supervisors honored the Troms as the county's 2018 Outstanding Wildlife Conservationists.

The couple had been undertaking conservation and native vegetation restoration for decades since buying the land. The support from the county and the no-till drill helped them with their latest project, they said.

An AP Member Exchange shared by Agri News.